Il Penseroso…random thoughts

In a very well-written post, Tacitus lays out the case for getting rid of the current leadership. He also quotes one of the more brilliant Democrats of the last half-century–D. Patrick Moynihan:

Am I embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Find me its equal.

Do I suppose there are societies which are free of sin? No, I don’t. Do I think ours is, on balance, incomparably the most hopeful set of human relations the world has? Yes, I do.

Have we done obscene things? Yes, we have. How did our people learn about them? They learned about them on television. In the newspapers.

To which I say: I agree. When it comes to many things, I think Moynihan was a prophet without honor in the party, and we’re all the lesser for this. I certainly agree wholeheartedly with the first two statements, and while I’d argue with the last, I believe we have a better track record of this than other places.

But one reason I’m still so grieviously enraged with this is because the words, thoughts and deeds of many people in this Administration have struck a grave blow against the cause of liberal internationalism. For better or worse, many of our interventions have not been undertaken for such a prosaic cause as power politics, but because our consciences were stricken.

I still believe that America, at its best, can be a powerful–the most powerful–force for good in this world. Contrary to what Chalmers Johnson (whose book, The Sorrows of Empire, is a thought-provoking read) may believe, I think that American hegemony is far preferable to the alternative–a chaotic return to the failed game of international intrigue and power politics that saw humanity descend into a maelstrom of death and violence over the last 150 years.

The events of the past year–to include the horrors at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, but let’s not stop there–have dealt the concept of America as a moral power a staggering blow. And while it wouldn’t be excusable if we had something to show for it (some things just aren’t worth that high a price, I think), we don’t. All we have to show for it is an increasingly Pyrrhic triumph in Iraq. Dean was right–we are no safer than we were on September 10, and we are further than ever from victory.

And while there are some members of the governing party who are beginning–only now–to criticize, ever so gently, the President, there are many, many more who are patriots to party rather than patriots to America. Yes, Mr. DeLay, and the rest of the House GOP, I’m looking at you. Save for a few exceptions (Heather Wilson comes to mind), they are so enthralled with power that they are sacrificing our national honor upon that squalid altar.

Which brings to me this. In the Good Book that these apostles of righteousness are so fond of, there comes a passage when Jesus says: “What doth it profit a man if he gains the world, if in doing so he loses his soul?”

We are gaining the world–or trying to, at any rate. Is it worth it losing our way?


I’d much rather be right, and in the right, than be victorious, and in the wrong.

There’s an interesting debate over at Opinion Duel between Spencer Ackerman (of TNR) and Mack Thomas (also of TNR–The National Review, that is). Check it out. But briefly, keep in mind that most of the criticism for Rumsfeld’s war plan wasn’t aimed at the waging of the war per se–nobody thought that the Iraqi Army, enervated as it was, would pose that much of a threat to Coalition forces.

The big criticism was that there weren’t enough boots on the ground for what came after. And that was the case then, and it continues to be the case now.

As it was, a lot of the fighting was rather a close run affair–remember the operational pause? And multiple studies by the Army War College have shown that luck played a particularly felicitous role in our victory. There were many situations where Iraqi forces, especially the closer we drew to Baghdad, could have encircled our forces and inflicted serious losses. But due to a combination of incompetence and circumstance, that didn’t happen.

So for Mack Thomas to claim that the plan was criticised on its merits is a bit strange to me.

Also, he claims that the technophiles didn’t prevail in the war-planning. Excuse me?

Part of the reason we only deployed 200,000 Coalition troops (mostly U.S. and U.K., with a smattering of others) was because we were depending on a lighter, more techno-oriented force. Recall, if you will, all the talk of “netwar” and utilizing precision technology as a substitute for brute force, even more so than in Afghanistan and First Gulf.

High Clearing has an interview with Marine Captain Chris Chown, currently stationed over in Fallujah. One of the things that they discuss is the cultural training that the Marines received prior to going to Iraq for the second time.

I’m not surprised. Reading several books about the Marines, you come to the conclusion–quick, fast, and in a hurry, as we say in the Army–that these are the modern masters of counterinsurgency warfare. The Small Wars Manual is still the reference book on the subject, and even as late as the Vietnam War, GEN Victor Krulak’s Marines were trying to win Vietnamese hearts and minds, while the Army was pounding holy hell out of them, through programs like the Combined Arms Program.

Read Max Boot’s The Savage Wars of Peace for more on this.

Finally, to readers of Gamer’s Nook and Making Light: I’m still in the Army. There are some days when I wish I wasn’t, because my legs aren’t as youthful and spring-like as they once were, but I’m still in the Army. And another reason Abu Ghraib still has me purple with rage is because it took us a long, long time to recover from the insanity of Vietnam; I fear it may take us, if we sink any further into the quicksand of Iraq, just as long to recover this time.


2 responses to “Il Penseroso…random thoughts

  1. Unfortunately in that post Tacitus concluded that the present leadership should not be replaced, because the Democrats are surrender monkeys. So I say that any liberals should leave this war to the Repubs, since they say they’re on top of it.

  2. Over and over we are told not to compare Iraq to Viet Nam. It seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult not to do so. I was in the military during Viet Nam although I did not serve there. I did have a great deal of contact with soldiers who had however. I heard the same thing from them over and over, they never knew who the enemy was and for survival had to assume that all of the Vietnamese were the enemy. As a result there was an overall dislike of the Vietnamse people. Working in the hi tech industry where many SE Asians work I have seen friction and distrust between SE Asians and veterans. I have had no contact with soldiers who have been in Iraq, so I guess my question to you is there something similar going on here? Could it have been a factor in the torture issue?